MICHAEL M. v. SUPERIOR COURT OF SONOMA COUNTY

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
79-1344
Petitioner 
Michael M.
Respondent 
Superior Court of Sonoma County
Advocates
(on behalf of the Respondents)
(on behalf of the Petitioner;)
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Facts of the Case 

Michael M., a 17 and 1/2 year-old male, was found guilty of violating California's "statutory rape" law. The law defined unlawful sexual intercourse as "an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a female not the wife of the perpetrator, where the female is under the age of 18 years." The statute thus made men alone criminally liable for such conduct. Michael M. challenged the constitutionality of the law.

Question 

Did California's statutory rape law unconstitutionally discriminate on the basis of gender?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Superior Court of Sonoma County, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

No. In a plurality decision, the Court held that the law did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, noting that "young men and young women are not similarly situated with respect to the problems and the risks of sexual intercourse." The Court found that the state had a strong interest in preventing "illegitimate pregnancy." The Court noted that "[i]t is hardly unreasonable for a legislature acting to protect minor females to exclude them from punishment. Moreover, the risk of pregnancy itself constitutes a substantial deterrence to young females. No similar natural sanctions deter males."

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MICHAEL M. v. SUPERIOR COURT OF SONOMA COUNTY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 06 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1980/1980_79_1344>.
MICHAEL M. v. SUPERIOR COURT OF SONOMA COUNTY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1980/1980_79_1344 (last visited July 6, 2014).
"MICHAEL M. v. SUPERIOR COURT OF SONOMA COUNTY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1980/1980_79_1344.